More than 2,000 spectators turned out on Saturday 19th September to see the world’s first ever stadium-style surfing event, Red Bull Unleashed.
It was a surprisingly scorching afternoon in North Wales as the final eight riders went head-to-head at Surf Snowdonia’s artificial wave pool. In the end it was crowd favourite Albee Layer (HAW) who became the first ever Red Bull Unleashed champion, after a string of spectacular displays carried him to victory over the plucky Billy Stairmand (NZL).
The competition was able to bring the crowd closer to the action than has ever been seen before, paving the way for a new era in competitive surfing. The athletes and spectators revelled in the unique man-on-man duel concept, which saw pairs of surfers go head to head, wave for wave, in a best of five format.
As opposed to traditional half hour heats, there are no second chances at Red Bull Unleashed, every wave counts. Surfing heavyweight Jordy Smith (RSA) who was amongst the spectators said, “It’s cool, you both have an equal opportunity, and there’s no two ways about it, the best surfer always wins. You can’t afford to fall so you really have to walk the fine line between pushing it to the limit and pushing it too far.”
The unique stadium environment meant that the audience was less than ten feet away from the action. “The crowd’s right above you, as close as you can possibly get to someone on a wave,” said Smith, “some guys thrive off it, others don’t. It’s an arena for those who can feed off the energy of the crowd.”
Layer was consistently in charge of his competitors, picking up on the nuances of the tricky waves early on and mixing up his manoeuvres to keep the crowd and judges entertained. His musical selections were as sharp as his surfing, and it was clear from the early rounds that Layer was the man to beat.
Sprayed with champagne on the podium, Layer, who notoriously does not compete, couldn’t help but beam with pride. “I didn’t know what to expect coming here,” said the Maui local, “but it’s been incredible. Surfing so close to so many people, music
￼playing, heaps of energy in the air, to get the win is crazy. If more events were like this, I’d do them!”
Red Bull Unleashed Results
Albee Layer (HAW) 3 def. Billy Stairmand (NZL) 1
SF1. Billy Stairmand (NZL) 3 def. Jack Freestone (AUS) 0 SF2. Albee Layer (HAW) 3 def. Mitch Crews (AUS) 2
QF1. Billy Stairmand (NZL) 3 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 1 QF2. Jack Freestone (AUS) 3 def. Kai Hing (AUS) 1
QF3. Albee Layer (HAW) 3 def. Jayce Robinson (GBR) 1 QF4. Mitch Crews (AUS) 3 def. Ian Crane (AUS) 1
H1. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 3 def. Alan Stokes (GBR) 0
H2. Billy Stairmand (NZL) 3 def. Leo Fioravanti (ITA) 1 H3. Jack Freestone (AUS) 3 def. Evan Geiselman 0
H4. Kai Hing (AUS) 3 def. Kalani David (HAW) 0
H5. Jayce Robinson (GBR) 3 def. Hiroto Arai (JPN) 0 H6. Albee Layer (HAW) 3 def Ian Gouveia (BRA) 2
H7. Ian Crane (AUS) 3 def. Mikey Wright (AUS) 2
H8. Mitch Crews (AUS) 3 def. Reubyn Ash (GBR) 1